May 30, 2015
For better or for worse, I am a competitive person. Odds are, I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. Whether it’s Ping-Pong, darts, Madden, or on the mound, I want to win – and I will do almost anything to succeed. But constantly chasing success means inevitably coming face to face with failure….and that is what this blog is about: how to deal with failure.
All people have experienced failure. I have let up many earned runs; my straight-A sister has gotten Bs and Cs; my siblings and I made a huge error of judgment when we randomly came home with a second puppy one day without asking our parents if it was okay. (True story…) People lead different lives, so “failure” will look different to each individual person, and it can show up in many different forms. But it’s how we rebound from failure that matters most.
As one of the younger guys on the team, I have a ton of teammates and coaching staff to look up to. Having such open and supportive teammates and coaches means I am presented with many opportunities to learn from those who have “been there, done that.” I try to take advantage of this by asking lots of questions – I love to pick their brains and form my own opinions on all topics. So I approached some of the guys on the team and some of the coaching staff and asked them for advice on how to handle failure. How can I face failure and move forward? How can I learn from it and grow?
As professional ballplayers, we are given such unbelievable opportunities to showcase our abilities and to get paid for what we love to do. Speaking on behalf of minor leaguers (at least the ones I spoke to about this topic), we never want to fail at our own game. Our job is to produce results day in and day out. But it is a long, 140-game season, and we have bad days – sometimes bad weeks. Sometimes we get in our own heads and it all just catapults into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. There are bumps in the road, there are stressors, there are frustrations along the way. We quickly learn that we need to find ways to live with these feelings, or else we would crumble.
There is a distinct difference between dwelling on failure, and staring failure in the face and refusing to let it own you. Failure is one of the best ways to learn. Learning what not to do allows you to learn what to do.
The other day, I had a rough outing. I got hit and did not put my team in a position to win. I failed at my profession. I found myself cursing under my breath, and after the game, I lost my cool in the clubhouse. We are human: we fail, we get angry, we lose our cool. It happens, and it’s okay. But if we keep things in perspective, it makes it easier on us and helps us grow.
The day of my poor outing, I found myself cursing, upset, not answering my friends’ and my family’s calls/texts – all because I had a bad day at work. Think about that. I let up runs and didn’t execute pitches, and I found myself ignoring the people that do not judge me based off a stat line. Upon reflection, I recognize that what I should have done was taken a step back and disect what went wrong, how to fix it, do everything in my power to not let it happen again, and ultimately, most importantly, move on. Was letting up a few runs really a reason to be so down and upset? Maybe for a little while. But I now realize that ignoring my family and friends and trapping myself in my own thoughts was not a productive way to handle the failure. In fact, it was counterproductive.
Baseball is a game of failure. If a hitter succeeds three times out of ten (30%), he is an all-star caliber player. In contrast, if a quarterback completes 30% of his passes, or a basketball player makes 30% of his shots, they are each looking for new jobs. Baseball is a game within a game. You literally have to learn how to accept being beat a majority of the time. Imagine that. Some of the most competitive athletes on earth have to be OKAY with being beat! Not possible, right? Wrong. Ask any big league hitter if they would sign up for failing 7 out of 10 times for the rest of their career… My guess is they’d sign on the dotted line without thinking twice.
The point of this post is to share my opinion on failure and how to handle and cope with failure. Most of the time, it is not life or death and should not be treated as such. I am not saying I am okay with failing. I often fall victim to overthinking and losing perspective… everyone does. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory of, “Remember, don’t be upset because it could be worse.” (Does that mean I shouldn’t be happy because it could be better?) But then again, perspective is key. When something goes wrong in your life, look in the mirror, dissect what happened, what went wrong, what went right, take away a few positives, and then move on.
Why dwell on the past? If you let it pervade your thoughts and dreams, if you let it eat you alive… nothing positive will come of it. Learning, moving on, and growing from failure is much more productive than being miserable because of a mishap. Adapt and overcome the adversity and failure that occurs in your life. Do not fall victim to people feeling bad for you or you feeling bad for yourself. Get up, face failure head on, and refuse to let it pass without learning something from it. Win the battle within your own head, and you’ll be right back on the road towards your next success.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from one of the most succesful athletes in history.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan